The University of Arizona and its fans have often, and repeatedly, chided ASU as an academically inferior institution. In particular, UA football coach Mike Stoops has repeatedly lobbed false claims that recruits who chose ASU over UA did so because it was easier to get into ASU, even though admissions standards are set by ABOR and are identical at all three state universities.
When it comes to the academic accomplishments of its athletes, UA is right: things are different in Tucson—but not for the better. For example, earlier this week Stanford’s The Bootleg reported on the results of the NCAA 2010 Graduation Success Rate Report.
For UA, the numbers are nothing short of shameful.
Arizona has fallen into last place. Remarkably, and a fact we would hope Arizona taxpayers would note, U-of-A! also has the worst graduation rate of all major basketball programs and the second-worst graduation rate of all BCS football programs.
Yes, you read that correctly: UA has the worst basketball graduation rate of any major basketball program in the nation, as well as the second-worst graduation rate of all BCS football programs. Worst, and second worst, in the nation.
The “University” of Arizona pulled off an appalling, but impressive hat trick, with the Pac 10’s worst graduation rate in football, basketball, and baseball.
And after reading those stats, it’s not surprising to guess what’s coming next.
Arizona’s graduation rate of 65% for all athletes is the worst for any major sports program.
Yikes—the worst major sports program in the country for graduating student athletes?!! Wow. Even this diehard ASU fan is embarrassed for them in earning such a distinction.
Now, ASU still has room for improvement in the athlete graduation department, but it’s certainly not competing for dead last in the country. In fact, ASU has made some good progress and been a national leader in launching programs like Scholar Baller, which has now been adopted by more than 50 universities.
Of course, none of this should be too surprising. ASU’s been making some serious strides in important measures like increasing freshman retention rates and decreasing loan default rates, even while growing as fast as Phoenix. Arizona, on the other hand, seems to be sitting on its hands and watching those same numbers move in the wrong direction.
That’s probably why UA’s own student paper, the Daily Wildcat, had this say last fall (emphasis mine):
According to a recent poll in The Wall Street Journal, Arizona State University ranks fifth in the nation when it comes to U.S. companies’ desire to hire graduates. The UA did not even crack the top 25.
The UA has spent years pooh-poohing its neighbor to the north, certain in its status as the academically stronger and more rigorous Arizona university. But increasingly over the past several years, that attitude simply doesn’t match up with the facts.
I’m of the opinion that arguing about whether one university is academically better as a whole than another is a futile exercise unless one of those institutions is either among the very best, or among the very worst in the nation. Otherwise, it’s like arguing which color is better: it all depends on how you measure it and the circumstances of the situation you’re in; what works for one student might not work for another. In general, college is like any other learning opportunity: you get out what you put in.
But one thing is clear—the tired old smack talk that UA sports fans often resort to in denigrating ASU’s academics just no longer applies. And that’s really got to hurt for UA faithful to acknowledge.
As the Daily Wildcat article explained, “Painful as it is to say, ASU must be doing something right.” UA clearly isn’t.
Big changes are coming to ASU Athletics. We’ll find out exactly what they are on April 12, 2011 at 2pm [event details], but some in the Sun Devil Club will get a sneak preview on April 9 at 5pm at the Scottsdale Plaza Resort [update: the event was reportedly sold-out]. I’ll miss both of those events, but I’m curiously awaiting the official unvieling (you can watch the webcast of the April 12th event on http://foxsportsarizona.com“>Fox Sports Arizona).
The leading rumors are that Sparky will be de-emphasized and that the pitchfork will become a recognizable symbol for Arizona State University. Most notably, that means that you won’t find Sparky on the football helmet. Speaking of helmets, it sounds like we may have three of them: a gold one, a maroon one, and a black one. That’ll provide some gameday options with the five new uniforms we’re expecting to see: gold, maroon, black, white, and pro-combat. Nike is leading the redesign, though some have confirmed that Disney has also been involved (which may help cool the backlash when Bert Anthony’s Sparky design goes missing).
It also sounds like there will be some additional information provided about the athletic department’s fundraising efforts, namely the Sun Devil Club. Some of the conjecture around a new Sun Devil Stadium and the Olympic Village concept doesn’t appear to be part of the announcement next week.
So far, none of this has been confirmed—but there’s plenty of insider speak and conjecture, and it’s great to have some excitement around ASU football this time of year. ASU’s done a great job so far of creating a buzz while keeping things under wraps until the announcement. I think Sparky is one of the most original mascots out there, but I’m waiting to form an opinion until I see the new designs.
Here’s a good local news interview about the upcoming changes:
By the way, if you haven’t purchased or renewed season tickets for our first year in the PAC-12 conference, maybe you should go ahead and do that right now.
Fear the Fork — Go Devils! ——E
The ASU Athletic Department has been touting a major announcement on April 9. A few days ago they posted this revised video (note the James Brooks PAT block against Arizona and the new pitchfork logo). Fan message board speculation has been high, and there seems to be a growing consensus that the announcement will focus the future of Sun Devil Stadium, which needs major renovations in the coming decade.
In frustrating fashion, ASU has improved on that prediction, but not by much. ASU could finish as high as 5th in the conference depending on how it does against Arizona on Thursday. It won’t finish worse than 8th, but could also ring in its third consecutive losing season—something Sun Devil faithful haven’t borne in their lifetimes.
My preseason prediction was pretty close—we’ll end the season with either 5 or 6 victories and fall just short of a bowl game. It’s another disappointing record for a team that was supposed to be on the cusp of competing annually for conference championships by firing Dirk Koetter.
Instead, the team has seen unprecedented losing streaks and the first back-to-back losing seasons since WWII. While the team clearly has upgraded its talent—particularly its speed—in the last few years and shared a conference championship in 2008, it’s also suffered from its share of near-misses.
In 2009, the Sun Devils lost 4 games by a combined 13 points without its Lou Groza Award-winning kicker. Thus far in 2010, ASU has lost 4 games by a combined 9 points with a suddenly-mediocre Lou Groza Award-winning kicker. Adding to frustration of fans, ASU had a chance to pull off upsets of Wisconsin, Oregon and Stanford but came up just short, often on weird or unusual plays.
In spite of the reassurances from the athletic department, Dennis Erickson is on the hot seat of fans. Many believe that he’ll need at least an 8-win season in the new PAC-12 next year to retain his job. Given the youth of the team (how many teams have you heard of that only start one senior?), the close-but-not-quite losses, and the resulting turmoil a coaching change can have, I’m willing to give him another year. But he has no excuses for next year.
It’s early fall in Phoenix, and that means another season of ASU football is upon us. After a shared PAC-10 championship in his first year, fan approval of Dennis Erickson was off the charts. Following two disappointing seasons — the first back-to-back losing seasons in 60+ years — there’s open discussion amongst fans of who ASU should pursue for the head coaching job in 2011. In what is otherwise a wide-open year for the Rose Bowl, the media has picked ASU to finish ninth in the conference.
What to expect
While the team will be returning what is expected to be a stellar defense, the questions all center around the offense. New offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone has installed an up tempo, spread ’em out and throw offense. That’s excited some fans, even though it resembles the quick strike offense so many of them came to despise about Dirk Koetter. However, this defense just may have enough depth for this philosophy to work. That is, however, if the offensive line stays healthy and manages to play above expectations, the quarterback position remains stable, and the wide receivers make consistent plays.
The offense will be improved, but not stellar. The lack of offensive line depth will remain a problem. The defense will not be quite as good as last year, but will be a solid and formidable force. After losing 4 games by a combined 13 points, we should see far better special teams play with Weber’s return. Erickson will pull out the stops when necessary; he’d better, his job is on the line.
This will be a better team than the 2009 team. Will it be enough?
Unfortunately, I think we’ll still end up a game or two short from a bowl game. We’ll win 5-6 games, but unless the offense improves significantly, I don’t think that we’ll be bowling again this year. There are still too many questions on offense, a challenging schedule, and a disinterested fan base. However, if the offense can get it going, this team will not finish 9th in the conference and will remain in the bowl mix.